Review: Martin Parr’s Offbeat Beach Photography


We may usually think of beach photography as capturing the beautiful people in Southampton, Capri, and St. Tropez, but under Martin Parr‘s gaze, it’s a more offbeat affair. Parr’s current show at Paris’ Kamel Mennour presents his Playas series of 2006-07, which he shot in Brazil, Uruguay, Mexico, Argentina, and Chile.

The beach shows people at their most comical level of dignity, as they let it all hang out, crawl around in the sand, and frolic in the water. Families and friends set up card tables at water’s edge, assemble in rented furniture, and play on inflatable forms. They bring their dogs and blankets, magazines and books, cigarettes and drinks, and buckets and shovels to claim a patch of sand. A child sleeps atop her father in Acapulco; women sunbathe topless at Copacabana Beach; a hairy man holds his girlfriend tight at Ipanema Beach. Parr shows us the common people, and what we find is that they possess a joy of life that’s downright contagious.

A parallel exhibition, Parrworld, is on view at Paris’ Jeu de Paume through September 27.

Image: Martin Parr, ARGENTINA Mar del Plata, 2007, from the series Playas. Courtesy Kamel Mennour, Paris.